The betrayal - John 13:18-30

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the morning service on 4th July 2004.

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I want you to imagine that you are currently onboard a luxury cruise liner. The liner is fantastic. It has many swimming pools, it has a number of restaurants and best of all it is heading towards the Caribbean. The sun is shining, the people are friendly and the food is sensational. And so far on this trip you are having the time of your life. Life couldn't be better! You're relaxed, you're happy and you're just about to tuck into a juicy T-bone steak. But just as your knife and fork are about to plunge into this juicy steak your evening is ruined by the entrance of an irritating Scotsman who walks into the centre of the room and who with a loud voice says this: The ship is sinking, it will go down, but I know the way to the lifeboat. Come follow me and you will be saved! Now let me ask you this question: what would persuade you to follow that man? Just think about it for a minute. What would persuade you to follow that man?

Now I don't know about you but for me I would need to know the answer to two questions before I followed the man to safety. First of all I would need to know can I trust him? Or in other words is there any evidence to substantiate what he says? Because if the answer if no, e.g. if he is a RC Nesbett figure then perhaps you should put it down to the drink and simply ignore him. But if the answer is yes, e.g. if it is the ship's captain who enters the room and says these things then the best thing to do is to get up out of your seat and to follow him. We must know if there are reasons to believe.

Secondly we must be sure of the results of rejection. For example, what would happen to me if I reject the man and stay where I am? Is my destiny inevitable if I reject the man's help? Because if it is then I would be a fool, I would be an absolute buffoon, to sit where I am and to do nothing.

I don't know what would persuade you in that situation to get up and to follow the saviour figure but surely if there are reasons to believe and also results of rejection then the sensible decision is to follow the man who can lead us to safety.

Now if you look at your handout you will see that these are the same two arguments that are used in John 13 to persuade us to put our trust in Jesus of Nazareth. But this time the rescue that is offered is not from a sinking ship but is from the reality of a meaningless life and from the destiny of an eternal destruction. You see what we have in Jn 13 are two motivations to persuade us to follow Jesus as our Saviour.

1.  Reasons to believe (verses 18-20). Where John assures us that there is a Messiah (a King) to believe in and that his name is Jesus.

2.  Results of rejection (verses 21-30). Where John teaches us about the sobering consequences that await those who reject Jesus as their Messiah.

Now I don't know where you are spiritually this morning, whether you are trusting in Jesus or whether you are rejecting him, but please understand that these things in the Bible have been written to persuade you either to keep on trusting or to believe for the first time that Jesus is the King we should follow. So either way, whether we are currently trusting or rejecting, God has a message for us this morning and so it's important that we listen.

1.  Reasons to believe.

So let me read to you verses 18-19.

Many details that we could explore in these verses. There are many profitable avenues that we could go down. But this morning I want us to concentrate on the one big idea in these two verses and the idea is this: at this particular time in Jesus' life, when he has only hours to live he knows that one of his close friends will betray him. And he is aware of this because of two reasons. And these are both found in verse 18.

  First of all he knows that one of his close friends will betray him because he knows those he has chosen. Did you see that?

  Jesus sees what the rest of his disciples do not see. And so here in John 13 as the hours march on to his impending death Jesus looks at his twelve disciples, remember the 12 he has chosen, and he says to them: look I know you and I know one of you will betray me. So how does he know this? Well, because he knows the heart. This is how Jn 2:25 puts it "Jesus did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man." He knew it then and he knows it today. There can be no hiding from the piercing eyes of Jesus. Yes we may try and hide the truth from our peers but we can never hide the truth about ourselves from Jesus of Nazareth who is now risen from the dead and who from heaven can still penetrate the inner thoughts of our minds. Do we ever think about that? Or do we still try and hide parts of our life from the risen Jesus Christ? Why? Let's remember that Jesus can see the heart.

  Secondly, Jesus knew that one of his close friends would betray him because he had read his Bible. That's what verse 18 says. Read verse 18. Now if you read Psalm 41 you will discover that it was originally about King David, a Jewish King who had lived a thousand years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, but by the 1st century AD many people thought that although Ps 41 was originally about David it also referred to a much greater figure. A greater David, a greater King who was to be known as the Messiah of Israel and whose life was to mirror that of King David.

  Or if I can put it like this: King David was seen as the understudy for the Messiah and the details of his life, apart from his sin, formed the Script that the Messiah, when he came, had to follow. Now do you see the implications of this?

  Just imagine that you were living in 1st century Palestine and someone came along claiming to be the Messiah and yet the details of his life did not match up with the checklist of the Messianic Script then what would we have to conclude? There could be only one conclusion: that he was not the Messiah. And yet just imagine that you were living in 1st century Palestine and someone came along claiming to be the Messiah of Israel whose life did match the script exactly, then what would we have to conclude?

  That here was the main actor. That here was the Messiah of Israel. And this is the very point that Jesus wants us to grasp about his own identity! Did you see it in verse 19? He says

  You see Jesus wants to persuade us that he is the Messiah, that he is the one who is able to bring rescue from God's anger at our sin, who is able to cleanse our consciences from guilt and who is able to offer us the power of the HS to change our behaviour from the inside. He wants to persuade us of these things. And do you see how he does it? By pointing us to the OT.

  This is Jesus' challenge. He says to us this morning go on check out the evidence, make a checklist from the OT of what the Messiah would have to be like and then compare it to my life and see what you discover. Do the comparison and you will find an identical match. Now what are the chances of that? Yes perhaps an impostor could have pulled off one or two similarities in the Script but only the genuine article could deliver all the lines and that is what we discover when we take up the challenge of Jesus.

  So let me encourage you this morning to take up Jesus' challenge!

  Non-Christian. If you are not someone who trusts in Jesus as your King then look at the evidence of the OT. Why not produce a checklist from the OT with a Christian friend or why not ask Melvin to sit down with you and show you the evidence. He's a friendly chap and he'll be able to show you how the OT prepares the way for Jesus.

  Or perhaps you're a Christian here this morning, who is struggling with your faith. You've come along but inwardly you are doubting your decision for Jesus Christ. Inwardly you're wondering: is it worth sticking with Jesus and with his people? Well if that is you please allow this objective evidence to confirm you in your faith. Let it strengthen and encourage you for this next week. Put aside those subjective feelings just for a moment and allow this objective evidence from the OT to persuade you to keep on believing that Jesus is the Messiah. You have not made a mistake. Because, first of all, there are reasons to believe.

Secondly, you have not made a mistake because there are

2.  Results of rejection. And these are hinted at in verses 27-30.

So what are the results of rejecting Jesus as the Messiah? What are the consequences for you and for me of not trusting in Jesus of Nazareth, the one who calls himself the Light of the World? Well according to Jn 13 there are two consequences, two results that we must not minimise or misunderstand.

  First of all, those not with the Messiah and hence not with the Light of the World find themselves under the power of darkness (verse 27). Now it is popular today to minimise the role of Satan in our thinking and in our practice but we do that at our peril.

  About two weeks I heard about the child who came up to Melvin after a Sunday service and he was keen to ask Melvin a question. So Melvin obliged and the young child said to him "Melvin, does Satan have any babies?" Now of course the answer to that question is no but according to John 8 although Satan does not have babies he does have children.

  You see there are two ways to live. You can either live under the rule of the King of light or under the rule of the Prince of Darkness. If you are not child of God then the Bible says you are a child of Satan and therefore under his power. Living by is rules, following his direction, and under his command whether you realise it or not.

  In Jn 8 Satan is called the father of lies and this is a practice that he passes on to his children. So what is one way of knowing whether we are under the power of darkness? Well ask yourself this do you have a problem telling the truth? Do you lie often? Can you stop yourself?

  Now Christians are certainly not immune from lying but there is a big difference for those who turn to Jesus as Messiah. Because when they surrender their lives to Jesus the power of darkness is broken. Take lying for example. This is not something Christians naturally do. And when we do lie we feel very guilty about it, don't we? But for the Christian the power has been broken because we have been released from the power of darkness. And not because we are strong and forceful. But because the one who has released us is strong and forceful.

  You may remember the imagery that Jesus uses in Mark 3. Where he describes the human race as in the possession of Satan, whom Jesus refers to as a strong man who has taken the human race captive. And do you remember what Jesus says needs to happen if the captives are to freed? This is what he says: "No one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house."

  We must not minimise the power of darkness in the lives of people outside Jesus Christ. It is useless to tell people to do better, to stop lying or to stop swearing because often they cannot. You see what they need at that point are not rules but rescue and that is what Jesus offers. He is the stronger man who is able to tie up the strong man and rob his possessions. Or in simple language: he is able to release people from the power of darkness, which is first result of rejection.

  Now the second result of rejection is hinted at in verse 30 (read verse). Do you see what's happened? Judas has rejected Jesus the Messiah and by doing so he has rejected the Light of the World and so therefore where is the only destination he can head for now? The darkness! Where else can you go if you are not willing to be in the presence of the Light of the World? There is no other alternative than to live your life in the place of darkness. And that is a terrible place to live.

  If you have your Bibles open please glance across to John 12:35. And hear these words from Jesus about the place of darkness (read verse). According to Jesus life in the dark is without direction and it is ultimately meaningless. I wonder if you find that this morning? Yes you are doing things in your life but if you were to stop and to ask 'what for?' or 'where am I going to?' there would be no answer. And why? Because you are walking in the dark.

  Jonathan Gabay. Suffering from deep depression. Depression caused him to ask these age-old questions. Why go on? Why am I here? Is there any meaning to my life? Now thankfully the depression lifted but the questions remained and so he decided to write to famous people to see what answers they would give him to his questions. Now here are some of the replies that he received: According to the

o  Cartoonist Tony Husband what is the meaning of life? Well he said "You do the hokey cokey that's what its all about"

o  Alexei Sayle: He writes "The meaning of life? I don't know but I do know the meaning of Eichhornchen it's the German for squirrel." Amusing but sad!

o  And yet it is not as sad as the reply received by the actor Michael Hordern, who writing only weeks before his death said this: "I am sorry but I see at the end of mine, no meaning to life but to fade into the light of common day."

  Read Jn 12:35. So what's the answer? Well its there in verse 36 (read).

  So let me ask you: have you done that? Have you put your trust in the light? Or are you still suffering the results of your rejection of Jesus as King? And so therefore you find yourself both under the power and in the place of darkness. Is that you? (Pause)

  I want to finish this morning with a very sobering warning. Do you remember the reaction of the disciples when Jesus told them that one of them would betray him? Do you remember that reaction? In verse 21 Jesus says... But notice what they did not do! They didn't instantly point the finger at Judas did they and say he's the one? Judas was not the obvious candidate. Have a look at verse 22! Now this is a sobering warning for us. You see on the outside Judas was just another one of the gang. He had been on the missions, he had looked after the money, he was at the Last Supper, and he was possibly even reclining next to Jesus at the meal. And yet it was this same Judas who betrayed him. It was this same Judas who rejected Jesus as Messiah.

  And so let this be a sobering warning to us!

o  Yes we might be associated with God's people

o  Yes we might even be part of the ministry of God's people

o  But if in reality we have never put our trust in Jesus as Messiah then we are not one of God's people - even though we are sometimes found with them.

  And so as I finish let me challenge you to examine your own heart. Can you say with conviction that yes I am a believer in Jesus of Nazareth. Let's pray. PRAYER: Jn 12:36.

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